Are you ready for some football?!
If reports are true, the 2011 National Football League season – thrown in jeopardy earlier this year when owners locked out the players after the collective bargaining agreement expired – could be back track.
Two people familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press that NFL owners and players agreed early Monday to the terms of a deal to end the lockout, and players were expected to begin the voting process later in the day. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the process was supposed to remain secret and no formal announcement had been made.
The voting process was believed to be just a formality.
The NFL Players Association's executive committee was to meet Monday to be presented with the finalized agreement. Owners overwhelmingly approved a proposal last week, but some unresolved issues still needed to be figured out to satisfy players.
The sides worked through the weekend and wrapped up talks Monday morning, one of the people told the AP.
The league's old labor deal expired in March, and the owners locked out the players, the NFL's first work stoppage since 1987.
"We have every reason to believe it's going to be a good day," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello wrote in an email to the AP.
If players sign off on the agreement Monday, NFL clubs would be able to start signing 2011 draft picks and rookie free agents on Tuesday. Conversations with veteran free agents also could start Tuesday, and signings could begin Friday.
Under that tentative schedule, training camps would open for 10 of the 32 teams on Wednesday, 10 teams on Thursday, another 10 teams on Friday, and the last two teams on Sunday.
The major economic framework for the deal was worked out more than a week ago.
That included how the more than $9 billion in annual league revenues will be divided (about 53 percent to owners and 47 percent to players over the next decade; the old CBA resulted in nearly a 50-50 split); a per-club cap of about $120 million for salary and bonuses in 2011 — and at least that in 2012 and 2013 — plus about $22 million for benefits; a salary system to rein in spending on first-round draft picks; and unrestricted free agency for most players after four seasons.
Should the players' executive committee vote to accept the deal, it then would go to the 32 team representatives to approve, perhaps later Monday. After that, the total membership would need to vote, with a simple majority required for passage.
The 10 named plaintiffs in the players' lawsuit against the league — including Tom Brady, Peyton Manning and Drew Brees — must officially inform the court in Minneapolis of their approval of the pact, too.
Even after that, while training camps would be opened, a true CBA can't be agreed upon until the NFLPA re-establishes itself as a union. Players will need to vote to do so even as the sides put the finishing touches on a deal; only after the NFLPA is again a union can it negotiate such items as the league's personal conduct policy and drug testing.
Based on reporting by The Associated Press.